- Donald Trump was deposed Wednesday by the NY attorney general’s office — after promising to plead the Fifth.
- In the coming weeks, the AG is expected to file a massive, long-threatened “enforcement action.”
- It will seek steep financial penalties for what the AG alleges is a decade-long pattern of playing fast and loose with the assessed values of Trump Organization properties.
Donald Trump on Wednesday completed his court-ordered testimony for the New York attorney general’s office inquiry into alleged financial wrongdoing at the Trump Organization — raising his right hand, swearing to tell the truth and then, true to his promise, declining to answer questions.
The former president left the lower Manhattan offices of Attorney General Letitia James in his motorcade at 3:15 p.m., waving from the passenger side about six hours after arriving for the taped, closed-door deposition.
He stuck to his guns, invoking the Fifth Amendment throughout questioning, according to two people familiar with his testimony.
“It was actually very professional,” Trump lawyer Alina Habba told Insider afterward.
So what’s next for the Trumps, the Trump Organization and James’ three-year investigation?
In the coming weeks, the AG is expected to file a massive, long-threatened “enforcement action” — essentially a multi-hundred-page lawsuit against the Trumps and his Manhattan-based business.
The lawsuit will seek steep financial penalties for an alleged decadelong pattern of playing fast and loose with the assessed values of Trump Organization properties.
Trump allegedly fiddled with figures as it suited him, James has alleged.
He low-balled values to avoid property taxes. And he high-balled the values for some of the same properties when he wanted to impress bankers and secure hundreds of millions in loans, James’ lawyers have alleged in court hearings and filings.
Fines and back taxes, however, may be the least of what Trump’s facing.
James has signaled she will also seek the dissolution of the business itself under New York’s so-called corporate death penalty — a law that allows the AG to seek to dissolve businesses that operate “in a persistently fraudulent or illegal manner.”
“This cuts right to the crown jewel of his real estate portfolio,” said Tristan Snell, lead prosecutor on the New York attorney general’s separate, successful investigation into Trump University.
“It’s everything, because at issue is Trump Tower [where the Trump Organization is headquartered in Manhattan], at issue is 40 Wall Street, which is one of his most beloved properties and probably one of the more valuable ones,” Snell told Insider.
“All of his golf courses are also at stake, so it’s a big deal,” added the ex-prosecutor, who went on to found MainStreet.law, a firm focused on helping small and medium-sized businesses.
“Trump would basically have to divest of his properties,” Snell said. “He could try some sleight of hand and have his operations be covered under some other new sort of corporate entities, but it would definitely be a significant black eye.”
So how did Trump do in his deposition?
A spokesperson for the AG’s office declined to give details, except to confirm that James “took part in the deposition, during which Mr. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”
Snell and others believe that in advising Trump to keep his mouth shut, his lawyers may have saved him from his sometimes overly-garrulous self.
“Every case I’ve ever heard of with him, as soon as he ends up being on the record, he is in those situations not too dissimilar to his public persona. I mean, he’s a little bit more careful, but not that much,” said Snell.
“He kind of goes on and on and on. And from that perspective he’s a very good witness to depose,” he said.
“I’m sure they got practically nothing from Ivanka,” he added. “I’m sure she testified cautiously and in a very dry, robotic way.”
The Trump Organization probe is the third time the former president has been in the AG’s crosshairs.
On both previous occasions — with the AG’s successful Acton’s against the Trump Foundation, which secured a $2 million fine in 2019, and Trump University, Snell’s case, which secured a $25 million fine in 2018 — Trump was not deposed.
Why did the AG insist on a deposition in this current, Trump Organization case? And why did Trump relent to being deposed, rather than settle beforehand, as he did with the University and Foundation cases?
“Those other things were peripheral,” Snell said of the other two cases, noting that the stakes are far higher now.
“It will be heavy artillery” when the AG does file its enforcement action, Snell predicted. “It’s going to be a big, big, big bomb that’s going to drop. This is going to be voluminous,” he added with a laugh. “It’s going to be a book.”
Trump has insisted as recently as Wednesday that the AG’s inquiry into his business is a politically-motivated “witch hunt.”
But AG investigators have said in court filings and at hearings that their three-year probe into a decade of Trump Organization documents has uncovered a pattern of financial misrepresentations on official documents.
Many of the allegations surfaced as the Trumps and the AG battled for two years over subpoenas.